By, Heather Brumfield
Zines can be a convenient introduction to artists books. Zines are self-published works titled short for fanzine or magazine. Self-published works can be identified as DIY (do-it-yourself) art which are characterized by low production costs in addition to a low volume team. The activity of making zines is often found within communities of underground sub-cultures. The underground significance is due to the ability to address topics otherwise not expressed.
Zines are known to connect artists through collaboration. Artists participate in collaboration on single renditions or in series of works. Zines can showcase multiple artists works in one book, but sometimes they only focus on one artist's work.
Certain zine creators will focus their artistic abilities on making zines as their only art. Many artists that are interested in the culture will make ‘how-to’ guides. These guides help others to get interested in the art by providing step by step instructions on how to make a zine. Rookie Magazine provides a digital how-to article by Emma Dajska. Emma proclaims, “Zine-making isn’t about rules or knowledge; it’s about freedom and power.”
Emma suggests some materials for beginning a zine:
It is standard to use half folded A3 printer pages bound with staples, but Rookie also suggests a one page folding and cutting technique that does not need glue, tape or a stapler. Once the pages are assembled, artists are encouraged to use collage or drawing to complete the content of the zine. Then, the zine can be photocopied and printed if desired for distribution.
Zines usually reflect whatever a specific culture is feeling or wanting to express. Some self-publishers will want to keep their content deep and meaningful while other individuals will feel more expressed when their content is fun and lighthearted. The content is dependent on the audience, artist and socio-political climate.
Instructional zines exist beyond the how-to guides of making zines. These guided zines can be instructions for anything- they exist from related topics of printmaking to obscure topics such as self-help guides. Instructional zine authors can be found in a large community on the small business storefront, Etsy.
Many zines utilize techniques that are related to bookmaking to create content. Printmaking, collage, photography, and poetry are all heavily utilized within the art form. Printmaking is an intermediate technique commonly used to create content in zines with lettering and images.
Forms of printmaking commonly used are letterpress, intaglio, block printing, screen printing, lithography and digital printing. Collage is a more straightforward process that one can use to create content because it only involves cutting and pasting images into different layouts. Printed photographs translate well into book form as many artists create photography books to showcase their work. Poetry is written content that is heavily used in zines because of its (usually) short form.
Zines can also exist as marketing material for causes, organizations or promotion for artists. The Gloo Factory in Tucson creates marketing materials for causes and organizations. They label this material as “peace supplies”. Promotion for artists can be self-created or created through collaboration to showcase artists works, similar to a portfolio but less extensive.
As zines are a category of bookmaking, subcategories exist within zine world. One of those popular categories is comics. Comics are so heavily used in zines because the format translates well and includes a story, images, and wording. Lilith, a Spanish zine distributed by Gatosaurio, includes a screen printed comic story that tells the story of a succubus interfering with the lives of high school students.
Another prevalent subcategory known to the zine world is social justice zines. These are works related to activism, usually in support of various activist movements. Simmons Library in Boston, Massachusetts holds a social justice zine collection observed by librarian Dawn Stahura. Some titles within this collection include “Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You”, “Dear White People”, and “A Pocket Guide: Stress Management”. Furthermore, the social justice collection includes works from activists supporting topics such as politics, oppression, and mental health.
Related to the Simmons zine collection is a project called POC (People of Color) Zine Project. Their mission is to “make zines by people of color easy to find, distribute and share”. This collective offers their collection for free online. The initiative collaborates with artists from many different places as they claim to be located “wherever you want us to be”.
Wasted Ink Zine Distro located in Phoenix, Arizona is a combination of a small-press, shop and library. They have over 500 zines from local artists and international artists. Zines not available for purchase can be read within the library. Wasted Ink is community run by local zine enthusiasts. The Wasted Ink supervisors host events at the shop to promote zine making. They will commonly hold press release parties, zine workshops and art shows. Wasted Ink prides itself on creating an outlet and safe space for voices outside of the mainstream media's coverage.